Nigeria (17)

Change that made no difference

Just a year after Buhari was elected into office on a mantra of ‘change’ it appears to be more of the same for Nigerians as the country is buffeted by ill winds from the global markets. Martins Azuwike reports on the shrinking of Africa’s biggest economy.

A year into Muhammadu Buhati’s tenure as president and com- mander-in-chief, his approval rating has sagged remarkably. According to a monthly survey recently published by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (Gain), which follows governments’ performance at various levels, the president’s rating dropped to 32.8 per cent in February. It was 63.4 per cent in January. No one is

surprised; the economy has gone haywire. The poll, which was published at the end of February, showed for the first time since December 2015 that more Nigerians have become disenchanted with the “change” mantra on which Buhari rode to power last year, scoring President Buhari low on job creation, the economy and power supply. Bears still retain their hold on the Nigerian bourse. The equities market completed a hat-trick of negative closes on March 16 as

the All Share Index shed 0.3 per cent to close at 25,657.48 points while market cap­italisation also dropped N30.1bn to settle at N8.8tn increasing YTD loss of the index to -10.4 per cent. Analysts maintain that the continuous retreat into the red zone is driven by the unremitting decline in key banking counters.

Market activity also waned as traded volume and value declined 31.9 per cent and 44.4 per cent to settle at 185.3m units and Nl.Sbn. That’s not all. Market sentiments also continued to be negative as the market breadth defined by the ratio of advancers over decliners (advancers’/decliners’ ratio) closed at 0.4x as a result of nine advancing stocks against 23 declining stocks. Afrinvest West Africa Limited, however, said: “The three-day losing streak in the benchmark index despite resilient FY:2015 results declared by some blue-chips is mainly due to profit-tation of weaker forward earnings (especially in the banking and consumer goods sectors) against the weak macroeconomic backdrop. Nevertheless, we continue to see value in the broader market for investors with a medium to long term horizon.”

The economic situation in the country has gone completely out of the control of government as a result of the global economy’s negative spiral effect on it, the minister of information and culture,

Lai Mohammed was quoted to have said recently during a radio broadcast in Abuja. The minister explained that this is because Nigeria cannot determine the price of crude or gas, maintaining that Buhari’s administration deserved credit from stakeholders for still managing to drive the economy amid the adversity. Mohammed has since repudiated a state­ment that has generated so much con­troversy among Nigerians, implying that his remarks had been taken out of context. “I don’t know the reason behind the gross distortion of my comments on

the radio today, but, whatever the motive is,


I GDP growth in Q4’15 down sharply to 2.11 per cent- a 17 year low

I FY’15 growth rate of 2.79 per cent compared to 5-year average o 6.24 per cent I Contraction in oil and gas sector

■ Contribution to GDP down to 8.06 per cent in Q4’15 from 10.27 per cent in Q3’15

■  Growth was negative at (-8.28 per cent)

■  Economic growth will pick up marginally from Q4'15

■  Ql: 16 growth projection of 2.4 per cent

■  Compared to five year average of 6.79 per cent

■  Factors that would constrain growth

■  Currency Exchange Pressures

■  Oil Price Slump

■  Inflationary pressure

■  Headline Inflation flat at 9.6 per cent in January

■  Estimated to spike to 12.3 per cent in February

■  Highest level since December 2012

■  Way above the CBN target of 6 - 9 per cent

I Nigeria is now among the 10 highest inflation countries in SSA Economic growth will pick up marginally from Q4’ 15 I Ql: 16 growth projection of 2.4 per cent

■   Compared to five year average of 6.79 per cent I Factors that would constrain growth

■  Currency Exchange Pressures

■  Oil Price Slump

Nigerians should disregard such distortion and continue to support our president and his administration to take the country out of the woods,” he said.

Things are so bad that some disgruntled Nigerians now refer to the “change” slogan as “chain”. Meanwhile, it has been reported that when Nigerian entrepreneurs visit global commercial hubs such as China and Dubai they find it difficult to buy the goods they want to import into the country. One of them, Deb Uchechukwu, told NewsAfrica after a trip to Dubai: “I could not buy any­thing out there. I took four Nigerian credit cards along with me but only one worked when I got there. When I made enquiries from the banks, their officials told me there was nothing they could do for me since the order to block such cards had come from the Central Bank.”

He added: “I hardly had money for my upkeep while I was there. If I had access to the money on those cards to buy goods, I would have sold them here to make some profit.”

Perhaps minister Mohammed’s mindset underscores the curious assertion by the president at a recent book presentation in Abuja that Nigeria “has the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world. Our dominance is not so much because of our wealth, but because of the tremendous energy and resourcefulness of our people”. As far as most people are con­cerned, the president’s remarks are hardly in sync with the harsh realities on the ground — an interplay of oil price slump, surging inflationary pressures, fuzzy exchange rates, a lame-duck manufacturing sector, a weak agriculture sector, lingering power sector problems, and massive unemployment.

In an article entitled ‘Nigeria as the Fastest Growing Economy’, columnist Levi Obijiofor, asked, “Where are the facts?” Buhari’s assertion that Nigeria is the fastest growing economy could easily be challenged. If the Nigeria economy is as the president claims, why is it that some states have failed to perform their basic financial obligations? he continued. “Some states are unable to service their debts. And yet others are unable to provide funds to service state-owned institutions and departments. Many states are not in position to pay regular salaries and allowances to public servants. Teachers in many states are repeatedly owed monthly salaries or paid in arrears.”

He added: “If Buhari’s postulation were to be credible, we shouldn’t be caught in the currency quagmire. Sadly, our economy has gone into n inoperable phase. An economy in a terminal state cannot be described s being in a paramount position. Everyone is complaining about the high prices of foodstuff. Is that evidence of a nation whose economy is growing faster than the rest of the world?

“At a time of adverse performance by all sectors of the economy, the government should pay attention to how the economy should be stimulated, to assist in the revival of the local currency, and to promote national interest in agriculture and the solid minerals sector. Enhanced socioeconomic development is the key to every country’s advancement.

“An improvement in the economic con­ditions of the people will draw the benefits of democracy closer to the people. A democracy that deprives citizens of their basic needs, a democracy that makes people bankrupt, a democracy that contributes nothing to the welfare, wellbeing and secu­rity of the people is a poisoned prize. It is of no use to anyone. A democracy works best when it enhances the conditions of living of citizens and gives people hope for the future.”

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said in a lengthy statement: “Today, the economy is confronted with persistent difficulties in the business envi­ronment especially in relation to insecurity in parts of the country, infrastructural con­ditions, foreign exchange crisis, funding issues, consistency of policy and the quality of institutions. Uncertainties and risks created by the political transition and the elections last year exacerbate the challenges.

“Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, suggest that the country’s real GDP dropped to 2.84 per cent in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 6.23 per cent in the same period in 2014. Sectors such as manufacturing and the services slid into recession after recording successive declines over the last three quarters in 2015.

“Even with the successful democratic transition that heralded a new political administration and presented a new wave of optimism on the back of the inherent goodwill of the administration at the federal level, business activities remind largely slug­gish for a better part of the year following uncertainties around the general economic policy direction of the present administra­tion. Nigeria currendy has a high depend­ence of imports supported by the huge amount of foreign currency needed to facil­itate these transactions.”

A former president of the National Association of Nigerian Travelling Agents

Irregular power supply continues to be a problem across the country


Why are Nigerians still travelling abroad for healthcare?

On the sick list – Thousands of Nigerians every year travel abroad for medical treatment because of lack of healthcare at home. By Martins Azuwike

THE REPORT last month by the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ajjampur Ghanashyam, that stated 20,000 Nigerians visit his country every year in search of medical treatment clearly shows that lucrative opportunities in the healthcare sector are being lost to other countries through medical tourism. 

Back in 2009, it was revealed that the Indian High Commission in Nigeria issued 4,000 visas to Nigerians seeking medical treatment in Indian hospitals that year. As in the case of the country’s oil and gas industry, failure to establish and implement policies aimed at strengthening the health care sector has held it back. 

“About 40,000 Nigerians go to India annually and 50 per cent of them go for medical reasons,” said Ghana­shyam.

“The remaining 50 per cent go for tourism, business, training and as students. The rejection rate is very low – not more than 25 per cent.”

In 2012 when 38,000 visas were issued to Nigerians, 18,000 travelled for medical treatment, spending $260m, or $15,000 each. Open-heart surgery, renal transplants, brain surgery, cancer and eye treatment were the main treatments sought.

India is the world’s third largest producer of pharmaceutical products by volume and the value of the country’s export to Nigeria was $307m as of March 31, 2012. To underline the ongoing trend of medical tourism, a Renub Research report puts Nigeria as among the top 63 countries in the world for it.

Aside from India, other top medical tour­ist destinations include the UK, the US and countries in the Persian Gulf. In 2009, even President Yar’Adua turned his back on Nigeria and flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment and only returned home a few months later to die.  

There is a good reason for all this. Nigeria’s lacks a comprehensive public health service, with a dismal record of 0.4 physicians and 1.605 nursing and midwifery staff per 1,000 people. 

For pharmacists the figure is 0.095, and laboratory health workers 0.168.The results are damning. Chris Akani, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, and provost of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Port Harcourt, revealed that Nigeria accounted for 25 per cent of maternal, new born and child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014.

“Also, 4.7 million of the 4.9 million new born and child births per year occur in the region, with Nigeria accounting for significant percentage of this number,” he said.”

“The risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria is about one in 15, as opposed to one in 5,000 in developed nations.”

Additionally, an estimated 52,900 women and estimated 250,000 newborn die from pregnancy-related complications annually.” Poor public health services and lack of ac­c­ess to medical care were the major contributors to these disturbing statistics. 

“Government should also enforce due process on birth and death registration in all political wards, while strengthening emergency obstetrics services in communities,” said Akani. He added that the government should be more committed to the implementation of number four and five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which seek to reduce maternal mortality ratio and under-five mortality rates.

Despite the huge opportunities offered by healthcare industry, only nine out of the 130 pharmaceutical companies in Africa’s largest eco­nomy are listed on the Nigerian Stock Ex­change, according to Farouk Gu­mel, a partner with PriceWaterHou­seCoop­ers Nigeria. The drugs most commonly produced in the country include anti-malaria medication, vaccines, antiretrovirals, antibiotics, and oncology and diabetic drugs. 

“Nigeria has critically low levels of human and infrastructure resources for health care,” said Gumel pointing out that Nigeria possessed just five hospital beds for every 100,000 persons against the world median of 35 beds, South Africa’s 24, Algeria and Egypt’s 18. 

“Pharmaceutical imports reached a value of $481m in 2013 and are expected to reach $789m by 2018, widening the country’s ph­arm­aceu­tical trade deficit from 475million in 2013 to $778m in 2018,” he said. 

Spending statistics from the federal Ministry of Health reveals that households spend 69 per cent on healthcare, the federal government 12 per cent, the states 8 per cent, local government areas 4 per cent, development partners 4 per cent, and companies 3 per cent. 

Nigeria has 47 federal medical centres and university teaching hospitals to cater for the healthcare needs of its huge population, estimated to be 170 million. There are also 700 general hospitals, more than 1,700 maternity units and 4,500 health centres. Privately provided healthcare, which comprises both profit-seeking and faith-based and voluntary hospitals and clinics, accounts for at least 40 per cent of all facilities in the country.

Although the private sector is growing, there are accusations that they offer poor quality services and are not value for money. They are most widely patronised in urban areas, though accurate data on them is usually difficult to collect. Ironically, while the health care system continues to be wanting, thousands of newly trained doctors, pharmacists and nurses often find it difficult to find work in Nigeria. As a result, many are forced to work abroad. 

In addition, a number of promising programmes designed to alleviate the problem have difficulty in getting off the ground. For example, the establishment of the American Hospital Limited (AHL) in Nigeria has been held up by red tape and political meddling for the past ten years, say those behind it.

According to its promoter Dr Ifeanyi Obiakor, AHL aims to “ensure that Nig­erians in particular, and sub-Saharan Af­ricans in general, achieve and maintain high quality public health and longevity that is comparable to the best in the world”. 

He added that AHL would also serve to promote medical tourism in Nigeria from the rest of Africa and even Europe and America. 

Its target clientele are those very Nigerians who travel to India and other parts of the world for medical care. AHL also includes a medical training programme. 

However, the Ebola epidemic in parts of West Africa has highlighted the need for a public health service. Despite its limitations on the health front, Nigeria was able to mobilise its resources to successfully contain the disease, whereas in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where protracted civil wars  hollowed out already thin-on-the-ground services, it ran rampant. It is in no one’s interest if only the well off receive treatment in an epidemic, say analysts.

A number of states in Nigeria have made improved health delivery one of their top priorities, pouring money into new hospitals and clinics. In Akwa Ibom, for example, the 20th Anniversary Hospital is being constructed to provide quality healthcare for both indigenes and Nigerians at large.


Nigeria fuel crisis continues

Adding fuel to the fire – A combination of ageing oil refineries and powerful middlemen led to a crippling fuel crisis last month. By Martins Azuwike, Lagos    IN THE RUN up to his inauguration at the end of last month,…
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